Taking a break from sandcastles and sunbathing, a small crowd gathered on a South Florida shoreline and traded questions among themselves while peering out over the choppy ocean at what was once a red and fluorescent green speck on the horizon. The speck, now moving skillfully through breaking waves near shore, turned out to be a human being with several fishing rods...in a red kayak.
This crowd was in luck as their curiosity was about to be satisfied kindly by one of the best in the sport of offshore kayak fishing. Shark Zen sponsored kayak fisherman and expert fishing guide, Rob Rodriguez, gets questioned like this all the time, and for good reason as he has consistently won many bigtime offshore kayak fishing tournaments, and hardly a trip goes by without an impressive catch. From sailfish to wahoo, on calm seas and rocky seas, this extreme kayak fisherman has made his mark on a rising sport and is on his way to accomplishing new feats that many would say are impossible.
Rob moved to Florida from New York about ten years ago. When he arrived, he wanted an easy way to get out on the water and keep active. He bought his first used Ocean Kayak Prowler and immediately noticed a couple of rod holders mounted in the back of it. It was a natural progression from there to his first big feat of offshore kayak fishing.
Imagine you’re in a kayak in four to six foot seas with a small craft advisory, 15 mile an hour winds, and gusts up to 18 mph. Not exactly your ideal day for venturing out alone in a kayak, but Rodriguez will be the first to tell you he doesn’t go out alone anymore. You rock your way out to 120 feet of water and land a small almaco jack and a bonita. The seas continue to build, but you’ll do one more deep jig as a shot in the dark before calling it a day. The jig taps bottom and you start reeling up as fast as you can. BOOM, a freight train hits your line and the vertical jig instantly goes horizontal. As an epic tug of war ensues, a skyrocketing fish with vertical stripes down its sides draws your mouth open to yell “WAHOO!!"
Rob's first wahoo on a kayak.
That’s how the first big extreme kayaking conquest unfolded for Rob; a 40 pound Wahoo (shown above) that landed him in several news stories. But not everything is so “easy” on the water for a saltwater kayak fisherman.
Kayaks aren’t as visible on the water as larger boats, which means plenty more close calls from passing vessels. Once, while Rob was fighting a fish, a passing sailboat’s keel got caught up on one of his fishing lines. He tried to cut the line, but was too late and he was pulled out of the kayak. "Now I'm under water with one hand on my fishing pole being pulled by the sailboat and the other hand holding on tight to my kayak,” Rob described. "After what felt like an eternity submerged, I was able to break my line free and re-board my kayak." Situations like this one show that you’ve got to have a clear, alert mind when on the water in such a vulnerable position, no matter the weather or the fish you may or may not be fighting.
From an overall safety perspective, the key is to let it be known where you are when on the water. Rob recommends multiple communication devices like a cell phone, a two-way radio, a personal locator beacon, a flare gun, a signal mirror, and a whistle. He also wears bright colored performance shirts that act as large, highly visible safety flags. For launches in the dark or with little daylight, he suggests bringing a light pole. Rob also brings a pump and duct tape in case of a leak.
With precautions like these, Rob believes the rewards of saltwater kayak fishing greatly outweigh the risks. In addition to the beauty of being in the middle of blue water on a small craft powered by human motion, a kayak gives you a unique advantage when fishing because of its low sound and size profile. Fish aren’t spooked as easily. Rob also adds that there’s something exhilarating about seeing big sportfishing charter boats pass by pointing and commenting to their clients as you haul in a big pelagic fish on your kayak.
There’s really no secret to the consistent kayak fishing success Rob has achieved. You’ve got to put in the time on the water. He says “I’m never done learning, reading, doing research, attending fishing clinics and seminars, and listening to what works for others. Having a good network of anglers with clear communication is ideal.”
This is part of the beauty of the offshore kayak fishing world, he notes. No one is trying to hide anything about how they find their fishing success. They’re all open with sharing ideas, tactics, rigs, and locations to build each other up. This makes it more fun for everyone, and it ultimately helps Rob and other core leaders of the offshore kayak fishing community, like Extreme Kayak Fishing Inc., grow the community for the ocean sport they love.
What’s the next big kayak fishing conquest for Rob? A yellowfin tuna over 100 pounds, a cuberra snapper over 80 pounds, a goliath grouper unassisted, and at long last, the coveted swordfish. He's going after them all, and something tells me the people on the beach will be waiting to hear the stories.
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Connect with Rob and go fishing with him and his team of kayak fishing guides through SouthFloridaKayakGuide.com and his kayak fishing forum on Florida Sportsman. Other great sponsors for their team include Arribe Reels, Adrenalin Custom Rods, and RAILBLAZA. Keep an eye on Shark Zen’s blog, newsletter, and social media to see the big stories to come about Rob’s future kayak fishing conquests. Don't forget to comment below to tell us your offshore kayak fishing experiences.